With the spring months ahead, what better way to prepare your garden with the help of a DIY compost bin? Although composting may be the crowning hallmark of domestic garden godliness, it’s actually an easy project for gardeners of any skill level. Give your garden the boost it needs with simple supplements found in waste materials, while also reducing your refuse materials bound for the landfill (extra points there).
Why create a DIY compost bin
Composting uses the natural decomposition process , based on four main elements: carbon, nitrogen, moisture and air. Kitchen and other organic waste get recycled, creating rich soil plants can thrive in. As soon as plants decay, they create a welcoming environment for the necessary helping decomposers: bacteria, fungi and critters like insects and earthworms.
Earthworms even have their own method named “vermicompost” – and who wouldn’t love additional gardening help? They filter soil contaminants through their released castings, or worm manure, which are rich in nitrogen. The more nitrogen, the more nutrients, the happier the plant.
Prep, process, repeat
Composting splits into two approaches, “hot” and “cold” composting. Hot composts have selected materials (carbon, nitrogen, moisture, and air) to create heat in the breakdown of microbes, which “fast cooks” and speeds up the process. With cold composts, it involves collecting and allowing the materials to naturally decompose.
Creating your DIY compost bin
Composts come in a variety of options like freestanding piles or built up containers as bins or crates. If you are creating a pile, reserve a meter by meter space. If opting for a container, a black plastic bin with a lid speeds up the process due to the heat generated with light absorption, or an open crate with wire mesh also allows for more aeration.
To create your DIY compost bin, take the bin and wash, removing any remnants. Using a paddle bit attachment, drill holes about seven centimeters apart, spacing holes around the entirety of the bin.
Combine the green and brown materials in layers (read below for suggestions). Alternating helps to create the ideal moisture and dryness levels. If it’s too dry, the materials will be resistant to decomposition. If too smelly and wet, you will need to add more dry materials to balance the contents. A beginner’s tip: start by mixing one part green materials with three parts brown.
Keeping the environment moist is key for earthworms, fungi and bacteria. An initial sprinkling of water helps. A good test is to stick your hand in the pile and if it feels warm – it’s decomposing and doesn’t require more water.
3. Stir it up
Helpful composting bacteria require oxygen to stay alive and consume the organic material.
Wet, swamplike conditions smother them – be sure to vent and turn to aerate the pile. A pitchfork or even a stick can do the simple job of stirring and creating air pockets between the matter.
Have a kitchen bin for scraps on your counter, a smaller bin enforces constant trips to the pile for maintenance.
Spilling the tea (tips and tricks)
Once the compost has settled, a secondary step to get more out of your compost is to make “compost tea”. Take the compost materials and steep it like tea in water and strain. The result is your very own homemade liquid fertiliser.
While composting is great at any time of the year, it is easier to start during your spring and autumn months. If composting in the spring, this generally is an expedited process as the contents will break down quicker in warmer weather. The key here again is dependent on your climate and season as you will need to keep it moist. If starting in autumn, this will be a great depository for your fallen leaves and will provide enough time for compost to develop before spring’s arrival. Compost will not break down in colder climates and will need to be above freezing temperatures.
Materials to use:
Carbon (the brown, dry matter)
- Fallen leaves, untreated wood chippings, recycled paper, cardboard.
Nitrogen (the green, wet matter)
- Green plant matter: fresh cut grass, refuse shrubbery clippings.
- Kitchen vegetable scraps: coffee grounds, tea bags juice pulp, deceased annual plants and herbivore manure.
Materials to avoid:
- Any diseased or weed plant matter that will seed.
- Eggshells – though quite a well known additive, eggshells don’t break down as quickly if not crumbled small enough.
- Onions and garlic, though organic, it’s a belief they repel earthworms.
- And lastly, no meat, oil, any manure apart from herbivores droppings, dairy or grease.
As time goes on, you will notice your compost drying out. Once it no longer gives off heat, it is fully “cooked” and ready for the garden! The ideal compost consistency should resemble crumbled chocolate cake as some like to describe it, resulting in the precious “black gold” plants love. Your end results produce a nutrient rich mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, supplementing them with “plant vitamins”. Apply about 10 centimeters to flower pots and garden beds to begin your planting season.
Here’s a toast to compost! With your new DIY compost bin, your garden will be aglow and radiant with its supplementary nutrients. To learn more projects you can tackle on your own or wanting advice from our team, contact us for more information.